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Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century

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This state-of-the-field overview of Pentecostalism around the world focuses on cultural developments among second- and third-generation adherents in regions with large Pentecostal communities, considering the impact of these developments on political participation, citizenship, gender relations, and economic morality. Leading scholars from anthropology, sociology, religious studies, and history present useful introductions to global issues and country-specific studies drawn from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the former USSR.

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Introduction: The Unexpected Modern—Gender, Piety, and Politics in the Global Pentecostal Surge

ePub

ROBERT W. HEFNER

It is by now a commonplace in sociology, anthropology, and comparative religious studies to observe that Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religious movement in the contemporary world. Over the past several years, demographers of religion have refined their estimates and concluded that the worldwide communion of Pentecostals and charismatic Christians may include as many as 500 or even 600 million people.1 Even if only approximate, this figure bespeaks an extraordinary change in global Christianity. It means that more than one-fourth of the world’s Christians are Pentecostal or charismatic;2 among Christian denominations, Pentecostalism is second only to Roman Catholicism in its demographic girth; and Pentecostalism is the majority variant of Protestant Christianity professed in the global south. Confounding those who saw it as an antimodern throwback destined for the dustbin of history, Pentecostal Christianity has turned out to be one of the great religious globalizations of our age. Just why this is so, the changes Pentecostalism has undergone in the course of its worldwide expansion, and what further refiguring this faith tradition may experience as it steadies itself in the twenty-first century are the questions at the heart of this book.

 

One: Pentecostalism: An Alternative Form of Modernity and Modernization?

ePub

DAVID MARTIN

The religious origins of Pentecostalism lie in different strains of Christianity, but especially in the Methodist Holiness tradition. Likewise the social and geographical origins of Pentecostalism lie in locations as far apart as India and Wales, even though Pentecostals attach special importance to the explosion of fervor among a global concourse of people led by a black preacher in Los Angeles in 1906. After this paradigmatic event, white and black traditions of revival fused in a potent amalgam capable of crossing any number of cultural species barriers. A global starburst of missionary activity followed, often traveling along tracks pioneered by missionaries in the Holiness and Evangelical traditions.

Pentecostals take their cue from the New Testament and retrieve those aspects of the pristine gospel they believe to be lost in a mainstream rationalized Christianity, above all the gifts of Pentecost. Pentecostals recreate the New Testament, especially Luke–Acts, and their account of their origins echoes the time in Jerusalem when the disciples “received the Holy Ghost” during the post-Resurrection period of Pentecost. In Acts chapter 2 we are told that people were present from all over the Roman Empire and all heard the message “as it were in their own tongue.” Missionaries spread out all round the Roman world, often following tracks laid down by Jewish proselytes. There is a parallel between global mobility in the late twentieth century, as that accelerated from the 1960s on, and the expanding network of communications in the Roman Empire. The empire was knit together by road, sea, and Greek and Latin, and the contemporary global reality is knit together by air travel, television, and the Internet, as well as English, Spanish, and other metropolitan languages.

 

Two: The Future of Pentecostalism in Brazil: The Limits to Growth

ePub

PAUL FRESTON

Brazil can claim to be the world capital of Pentecostalism. It has about 25 million members, nearly one in seven of the population, comprising numerous small denominations but also some huge and highly influential ones. It has high-profile Pentecostal televangelists and members of congress; indeed, the third-placed candidate in the 2010 presidential election, with almost 20 percent of the vote, is Pentecostal. Its missionaries are in over a hundred countries, evangelizing the native populations. In the period between the censuses of 1991 and 2000, Brazilian Pentecostals more than doubled in number. Brazil would seem, therefore, to be at the forefront of the global Pentecostal advance that has attracted so much recent academic and journalistic attention.

Yet there are reasons for doubting Brazilian Pentecostalism’s ability to continue its headlong growth, or even perhaps, in a while, to continue growing at all; and also grounds for wondering whether it will ever be able to achieve the sort of social and political influence that its size might lead us to expect, let alone that which it fondly imagines for itself. There are even signs that it might not only be losing numerical steam but also floundering in its attempts to transition to new ways of being in Brazilian society.

 

Three: Social Mobility and Politics in African Pentecostal Modernity

ePub

DAVID MAXWELL

The coincidence of Africa’s born-again takeoff with the end of the Cold War and the dawn of the neoliberal era raises a host of questions about the movement’s relation to social, economic, and political change. Peter Berger contends that Evangelicalism is “the most modern religious community in the contemporary world” because it is a movement constituted by choice: “The voluntary association is its natural social expression, engendered from within by its religious self-understanding.”1 Students of development grow increasingly interested in forms of Protestantism that can motivate large numbers of adherents to donate scarce resources to charity and church growth, and whose leaders inspire far greater levels of trust than politicians.2 As David Martin has recently observed, “Economists are also realists and may well be interested in people who refuse to be victims, organize for mutual assistance, and foster aspirations as a battalion of irregulars in the war on poverty.”3 Martin has also argued that Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism’s most vital strand, acts as a “school for democracy.” The results might be visible only in the longue durée, but by creating voluntary popular institutions, Pentecostal religion contributes to the formation of civil society and a broader culture of self-determination that provide the necessary ecology of democracy.4

 

Four: Tensions and Trends in Pentecostal Gender and Family Relations

ePub

BERNICE MARTIN

Interviewer: What’s changed in your relationship since conversion?

C: Changes happened slowly because we didn’t know how to live as a couple according to the plan of God. We used to live like partners in a business, nothing of that thing of wife and husband. . . .

I:  What sort of teaching does the church give about this?

C: They support us a lot. Courses on the internal healing of the couple. A lot of things have changed between us, such as mutual respect, more awareness of the role each one has to have.

I:  What do they teach about the role of the man and the woman?

C: What’s in the Bible. That the man has to love his wife as Jesus loved the church, look after her as the weaker part. That the woman has to be submissive to her husband. That submission is not an inferior position but of helping the husband in the mission he has, being “under his mission.” That there must be agreement between the couple, otherwise God cannot bless. That there must be prayer together, pardon, understanding of each other’s defects. That children are an inheritance that God has given, and must be looked after with care. Knowing that in practice all this is very complicated, at least with us it is, because previously we used to quarrel so much, ugly quarrels and fights. God is restoring this but it’s not by any means the ideal yet. I think it’s been the hardest area for us to recover. To begin with we were totally against marriage. We only got married because [the pastor] said it was better because God would bless us more. That was four months after our conversion . . . but we did it out of obedience, not because we really believed it.

 

Five: Gender, Modernity, and Pentecostal Christianity in China

ePub

NANLAI CAO

China has experienced a strong revival of Christianity in the last few decades of economic reform. Recent estimates of the Chinese Christian population range from 23 million to 60 million.1 Although the “Christianity fever” has swept across the country, there are clear regional variations in the pattern of church growth. These variations are further compounded by the differentiation between the official TSPM (Three-Self Patriotic Movement) churches and the so-called house church movement.2 Generally, the many rural-based house churches feature a charismatic structure dominated by illiterate or semi-literate experientially inclined lay women, while the TSPM movement in urban areas has an institutionalized structure in which theologically trained male clergy assume leadership positions.3 This experiential/theological or charismatic/bureaucratic split continues to be played out in the process of intensified urbanization and modernization. The Christian scene at the grassroots level is far more complex and varied.

 

Six: The Routinization of Soviet Pentecostalism and the Liberation of Charisma in Russia and Ukraine

ePub

CHRISTOPHER MARSH AND ARTYOM TONOYAN

The year 1989 was the first in which the promises of Gorbachev’s perestroika were fulfilled. A mere year after the millennial celebration of the “Baptism of Rus′,” as the conversion to Christianity by Kiev’s Prince Vladimir is known, religious life in the Soviet Union had opened up in a way unseen since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, if even then. It was in this exhilarating environment that a young Pentecostal named Alexander gathered a few of his friends to go and sing hymns at a local cancer hospital in Zhitomir, Ukraine. Alexander’s aunt was dying of cancer, and her condition made church attendance impossible. Why not bring the love of Christ to her and the other patients, Alexander thought. Their singing was most welcome by the patients, believers and nonbelievers alike, for obvious reasons. Similarly, Alexander and his friends also began singing around town and sharing the Gospel with passers-by, taking advantage of the new freedoms that perestroika had brought them.

 

Seven: Pentecost amid Pujas: Charismatic Christianity and Dalit Women in Twenty-First-Century India

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REBECCA SAMUEL SHAH AND TIMOTHY SAMUEL SHAH

Ernest George, pastor of the Garden City Assembly of God International Worship Centre, one of Bangalore’s fastest growing and wealthiest Pentecostal churches, sat at a large oak desk when we visited him in August 2010, with his brass nameplate and two books prominently perched near him: one by Joel Osteen and the other by Rick Warren. Pastor George’s church boasts a membership of over three thousand people, drawn mainly from Bangalore’s growing middle class and the younger generation of Christians who grew up in the mainstream Church of South India or Mar Thoma Church. The Garden City AG church is entirely self-supporting. It has purchased a large building complex that houses its sanctuary, children’s ministry buildings, and a state-of-the-art music school.

In the interview, Pastor George talked about his belief that India is a “rich country” and that Indian Christians should support themselves. He expressed his passionate eagerness to prove to Bangalore that Christians too can be “successful and important” members of society. During a recent visit by a missionary pastor from Durban, South Africa, George suggested an impromptu offering be taken. For their South African visitor, the congregation raised thousands of dollars—dollars, not rupees, Pastor George took pride in emphasizing—in a single collection at a single service. Indian Pentecostals, he wanted to underscore, are not lagging behind modernity but are surfing the wave of modernity to heights of success, status, and prosperity.

 

Eight: Politics, Education, and Civic Participation: Catholic Charismatic Modernities in the Philippines

ePub

KATHARINE L. WIEGELE

The Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai is among the most prominent of the renewalist movements in the Philippines, with followership estimates between 3 and 8 million worldwide, up to 7.5 percent of the domestic population.1 It is likely the largest Catholic charismatic group worldwide with a well-developed prosperity gospel. In 2011 WikiLeaks released a 2005 cable from the U.S. embassy in Manila indicating that the embassy saw El Shaddai and the block-voting Iglesia ni Cristo (the country’s largest independent indigenous Protestant church) as highly influential in national politics, a pattern they felt would continue for years.2 Like other charismatic groups in Catholic majority countries, El Shaddai must contend with the Church hierarchy. However, it operates as an independent church, and this, combined with its prosperity gospel, means it shares much with its Pentecostal counterparts worldwide; members are “renewed” Catholics, therefore their Catholic identities and lifestyles are consciously chosen over other ascribed, mainstream, leftist-influenced, or secular-cultural forms of Filipino Catholicism.

 

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